Thursday, May 2, 2019

Geoengineering: gosh, what could go wrong?

It’s a sign of desperation and our assumed powerlessness that are driving ideas associated with geoengineering (fighting climate change by capturing carbon or shielding the sun) into the mainstream. If we lurch past a tipping point, we might have to do this, but some form of carbon tax would be a less dangerous way to reverse emissions now.

Why are humans seemingly incapable of stopping ourselves from disaster? Daniel Quinn, author of the wonderful book, Ishmael, has a possible answer. The stories we tell ourselves about ourselves teach us that humans are screw-ups. Adam and Eve blew it. Perhaps that’s why, when we’re confronted with our own behavior as the source of climate catastrophe, we shrug. Of course we’re going to mess things up; it’s what we do with our free will.

Brian Swimme and others have talked a lot about needing to change our creation story. Carl Sagan said,

“The cosmos is within us. We are made of star-stuff. We are a way for the universe to know itself.”

That’s a way different story!  We’re not perpetual screw-ups; our consciousness and curiosity are how the universe is coming to know itself. What a responsibility to get it right! That may seem an arrogant claim by a single species on a tiny blue dot on an outlying galaxy. But watch One Strange Rock, a Netflix series with Will Smith and a handful of astronauts, to get a sense of how special we and our planet might be. There’s a good chance there is life elsewhere, but much less of a chance that it has gone beyond single cells, and even less having developed a big brain and opposable thumbs.

We need to protect our planet. We better get our climate under control. What if there’s no one else in the universe to do this work?

You can read about options associated with geoengineering here:

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